North Korea’s attack on a South Korean island in one of the worst military flareups between the neighbors in recent years has cast a long shadow over Korean officials and athletes competing at the Asian Games.
Just hours after North Korea rained dozens of shells on Yeonpyeong island, around 120 km west of the capital Seoul, destroying buildings and killing two soldiers, South Korean sports officials reacted with alarm and said the strikes could weigh on its athletes competing in the regional event.
While sport has been a softer arena for the two Koreas to bolster relations away from thorny high politics, the two sides failed to march together under a unification flag at the opening ceremony of the Games in a seemingly frosty start.
On the field of sport, however, there have been encouraging moments between the two rivals.
A women’s football semi-final between North and South Korea was won by the north in a tough-fought but fair contest earlier in the week, while Tuesday, as news of the North Korean attack broke, two archers from the north and south vied for gold in separate semi-finals in the individual archery contest.
Traditionally, one of South Korea’s strongest sports, female archer Yun Ok-hee’s unerring aim saw her eventually go on to clinch gold while North Korea’s Kwon Un-sil picked up bronze.
Speaking after her win, Yun said she rarely mixed sport with politics but appealed for peace amid escalating tensions.